WASHINGTON - Today, Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, hosted a roundtable entitled, “A Historic View of the Clean Air Act: Providing the Way for Cleaner Air, Innovation, and Economic Opportunities.” Below are Senator Carper’s opening remarks, as prepared for delivery. Participant biographies and remarks are also available below.
“Abraham Lincoln once said that the role of government is ‘to do for the people what they cannot do for themselves.’ I believe that one of the most important roles of government in our country is to help create a nurturing environment for job creation and job preservation. Another critical role is to help protect public health and to ensure that all Americans can pursue life, liberty and happiness.
“Luckily, the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, history has proven that Americans breathing cleaner air is good for business. Over the last forty years, the EPA has sought to foster economic growth while ensuring that Americans are protected from life threatening pollution, including air pollution.
“In 1970, President Nixon signed into law the Clean Air Act. Twenty years later, President George H.W. Bush would sign legislation amending it. Together, they provided a framework to curb air pollution in America, while also providing the flexibility to ensure our economy would continue to grow, and it has.
“When Congress voted on the expansive update to the Clean Air Act 27 years ago, even Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) supported the change saying, ‘I had to choose between cleaner air and the status quo. I chose cleaner air.’ I agree with what Senator McConnell said at the time. It is just that simple.
“For decades, though, some have claimed that the Clean Air Act has raised costs for consumers and hurt our economy. But the facts tell a different story.
“History has shown that since 1970, aggregate emissions of common air pollutants have dropped by 72 percent, while the U.S. gross domestic product has grown by 219 percent. Total private sector jobs increased by 101 percent over the same period. Put another way, the Clean Air Act benefits outweigh the costs of regulation by a margin of 30 to 1. Talk about a return on investment!
“Today, our country is undergoing a clean energy revolution and that hasn’t happened by accident. Over the last eight years, starting with the recovery that followed the Great Recession, the federal government has provided economic incentives and environmental targets to encourage investments in the clean energy of the future. All told, some $507 billion dollars have been invested in the clean energy sector over the past decade and, today, our country is a leader in exporting clean air and clean energy technologies. Thanks to our investments, consumers are paying less for energy, and jobs are being created here at home to keep up with the demand. In 2016 alone, one out of every fifty new jobs added in the United States was created by the solar industry.
“After eight years of smart economic and environmental policies, most of our country has largely rebounded from one of the worst economic downturns in history. We enjoy lowered energy costs at the meter and the pump, while clean air protections that protect public health and our climate have been implemented all while adding 16 million new jobs.
“Today, we will hear directly from businesses about some of the innovation that’s been fostered and the economic opportunities that have been created by Clean Air Act protections.
“Our current EPA Administrator likes to quote Yogi Berra who famously said, ‘The future ain’t what it used to be.’ Left to their own devices, I fear that this Administration’s actions could very well ensure that’s the case, with a dirtier and less prosperous future ahead. Walking away from the Paris Agreement and other climate and clean air protections is not just irresponsible – it’s irrational. And saying that you have to do so for the good of the American economy is blatantly false.
“This Administration’s tired arguments against clean air protections reminds me of another quote from Yogi Berra, ‘it’s Deja Vu all over again.’ Each time our country has faced difficult environmental challenges, we’re told by some in industry that the costs of addressing those challenges are too steep. That our economy would grind to a halt. That prices would skyrocket for consumers. That the sky would fall.
“But it still hasn’t. In fact, when we have risen to the challenge, American ingenuity has kicked in, and we’ve protected the environment and public health and done so at lower costs, while creating additional new jobs.
“Rather than scrapping forward-looking standards and cutting the EPA’s budget by more than a third, we should be looking at ways to continue to drive American innovation. We should be fostering new economic opportunities in distressed communities that may still be dependent on the old world energy order.
“President Harry Truman once said, ‘The only thing new in this world is the history that you don't know.’ The history of clean air protections is this country are perfectly clear. “Moving our country forward cannot mean going backwards on clean air and climate rules. Anyone who tells you otherwise has either not studied history or is not interested in getting to the truth.
“I want to welcome our roundtable participants here today. Thank you all for joining us and for providing your thoughtful perspectives. We look forward to hearing what you have to tell us and – once you’ve done that – to joining in a rich and fulsome conversation that, hopefully, will enable us to provide an even more nurturing environment in this country for job creation and job preservation.”
Participant biographies are available here and participant remarks are linked below:
- Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation
- Michael Bakas, Senior VP of Ameresco
- Tim Johnson, Director, Emerging Technologies and Regulations of Corning
- George Howard, Co-owner and Board Member of Inovateus Solar